Mark D. Roberts

When I first began blogging over five years ago, I didn’t have an effective commenting feature on my blog. This was a result of my peculiar way of blogging. Unlike the vast majority of small people, I did not use an automated blogging service (Blogger, Typepad, WordPress, etc.). Rather, I formatted my entire blog “by hand,” using HTML and Dreamweaver. This gave me lots of power to control the look of my blog. But it meant that certain kinds of functions, like comments, were far beyond my abilities. Finally, in April of 2007 I managed to come up with a hybrid blog, a combination of HTML code surrounding a WordPress automated blog. Now I could allow people to make comments, or to comment on the comments of others, in a more standard blog format. The result, not surprisingly, was more comments from my blog readers.
I don’t know if you’ve spent much time reading comments on blogs. If not, I wouldn’t recommend it. For the most part, blog comments are not especially insightful. Often they are inane. Often they are rude and offensive.  If you want to check out some salient examples, visit the marvelous Newsweek website called On Faith. This “blog” features contributions by some of the most outstanding religious (and irreligious) leaders in the world, including: Chuck Colson, Sam Harris, Elaine Pagels, Desmond Tutu, Rick Warren, Elie Wiesel, and N.T. Wright. Many of the comments added by readers are appropriate and helpful. But I’ve been amazed by the rather large number of mean, disrespectful, and outright nasty comments. In particular, I remember one post by Desmond Tutu, a bishop, Nobel prize winner, and, arguably, one of the most respected leaders in the world. I can’t remember the topic of Bishop Tutu’s post. But I do remember several of the comments that spoke to him like he was a complete idiot. They ridiculed his faith and mocked his ideas. Admittedly, most blog comments are this bad. But the overall level of blog comments doesn’t exactly build my confidence in the intellectual and moral fiber of the blogosophere.
But then there are the comments on my blog. Please pardon me if I take a moment to brag about my commenters. I am truly proud of their intellect, curiousity, and kindness. There have only been a couple of times when I’ve had to edit comments because of their inappropriate language. I do not, by the way, edit or delete comments that are critical of me or my ideas. I should mention, however, that every comment on my blog goes through an outstanding screening program (Akismet) that keeps spam out.  I’ve had over 2,000 legitimate comments on my blog in the last year and a half. I have had over 13,000 spam comments that have been caught by Akismet. Most of these are promoting something: porn, pharmaceuticals, etc. Akismet (associated with WordPress) allows me to have my comments unmoderated. Every once in a while, however, a legitimate comment is held for my moderation.
There are times when I don’t get many comments. And there are times when I get dozens. I am not always able to comment on the comments, but I do try to read them all. Of course I’m encouraged by those who agree with me or express their appreciation for my blogging efforts. I’m often sharpened in my thinking by those who disagree, or by those who ask tough questions. More than once, questions by my commenters have determined the future course of my blog.
If you read my blog comments with any regularity, you’ll get to know some of the personalities. There are some who are consistently positive. I’m thankful for their support. There are others who disagree with me quite often. I’m thankful for their honesty and the respect with which they communicate. I hope I respond with similar graciousness.
I’m proud of my blog commenters. They are doing something that is increasingly rare in our country: dealing openly, respectfully, and graciously with serious issues, even in the midst of significant disagreement. So, for those of you who comment, thank you, both for adding your thoughts, and for doing so in such a helpful way.

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